A) Steal stories from CNN and change the headlines.
B) Give up on news and focus on the local party scene.
C) Localize stories so they have direct impact on the student body.
Clearly, the answer is to localize stories and put a student perspective on them, but that’s often easier said than done. Community college papers especially struggle with finding worthy news stories, but the Falcon Times at Miami Dade College—North seems to be winning the battle. “Student media should focus their news stories on student issues—which are largely ignored by the national media—on entertainment, and on giving a student perspective and alternative voice through the Op/Ed section,” says Alonso Menendez, Opinions editor.
The Falcon Times’ first objective is to cover any relevant campus news that was missed by other local media sources, and they accomplish this with a staff that understands the importance of writing good leads and eye-catching headlines. Take, for example, the “Burning Down the House” article that previews the opening of a burn facility on campus for training firefighters. Packaged with colorful before and after shots, the article would get attention from even the busiest students. But the fact remains that there isn’t always an abundance of breaking news on campus that would interest a student audience, so the Falcon Times fills in the holes with evergreen articles such as student and faculty profiles, photo stories, and news/feature articles. “Timeliness is a challenge that’s presented to us before planning any issue,” says Evelyn Marino, editor in chief. “We choose stories that are ongoing or will have an immediate effect on the student population.”
However, the Falcon Times also demonstrates that a staggered publishing schedule doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon larger national issues. “We do look at national and sometimes international events and try to cover those from our college-student perspective and what role the college plays in the event,” says Munam Butt, News editor. For example, when the MDC security staff began raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, it gave the paper an opportunity to discuss the larger issues of juvenile diabetes and giving to charity while still maintaining a focus on campus events.
Another of the paper’s strengths is its coverage of local artists, entertainers, and successful students. “We continually strive to inform students about Miami’s thriving art scene and to profile MDC students who are making a mark on their community,” Marino says. The “Miami Life” section brings these emerging talents to students’ attention and also provides information on local events that the student body may not have heard about. The Entertainment pages as a whole are very strong, with in-depth interviews, film and movie reviews, and features on issues relevant to student life.
course, few students are going to pick up a paper if it isn’t visually
attractive, so the Falcon Times underwent a recent design overhaul,
and the results are impressive. “We wanted to create a vibe that captured
Miami’s urban essence combined with thorough journalism at
its peak,” Marino says. “We have pushed the limits of design and continue to
make improvements.” By combining fundamental design principals with creative
graphics and section headers, the staff has created a fun product that still
The Op/Ed pages, one of the paper’s strongest sections, are especially well- designed with large editorial cartoons and a combination of both vertical and horizontal elements that add visual appeal to an area of the paper that’s often text heavy. However, according to Brockway, the section is more than just visually balanced. “Editorials strive to offer an informed, fair opinion on issues affecting college students, primarily at this campus, but including issues that affect or interest students statewide and nationwide,” he says. In any given issue, the Metropolis features a variety of differing voices and opinions, which is a nice change from the typical community college Op/Ed section.
The Metropolis’ major weakness is its sparse News section. Even at community colleges, news should be the heart of the paper. This means getting creative with the articles you pursue. Additional profiles, in-depth articles on topics that aren’t timely, and closer attention to the administration and Student Government would make a good paper that much better.
Contact Brockway at 305-237-1255.
However, for a paper that has a month to put together an issue, In Motion should be producing significantly more creative and attractive layouts and writing more in-depth articles. They’re doing in a month what other papers do in half the time. Use that time effectively so you can blow away any other student paper.
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